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Teaching elementary students to ask great questions


Questioning is at the heart of understanding. Teaching questioning strategies is closely linked to comprehension and making sense of new learning. Questioning is a strategy that must be taught because good questioning is difficult…even for adults. Here are a few suggestions to use in your classroom:

  1. When introducing a new book or unit of study to the class, ask the class what questions they hope to have answered while they read the text or study the topic. Listen carefully because many students will make predictions. Predictions are not questions. Help them rephrase their prediction into a question or, ask the student to rephrase their prediction into a question.
  2. Post the list of questions on chart paper. When the questioning has finished, review the questions and ask the students to identify the questions that will help them delve deeper and learn more about the author, book or topic. This will eliminate most superficial questions or yes/no questions.
  3. Depending on the number of questions that are left, divide the questions up among student groups and suggest that at the end of each day/lesson each group record anything new that helps answer their question. Some information is sequential and will be revealed later.
  4. Revise the “exit ticket” strategy with the questioning strategy. Ask each student to exit by asking one question that was answered for them today in the lesson or book. Positive reinforcement for great questions encourages students to ask better questions.
  5. Use questioning as a review for a quiz. Ask each student to ask a question that might appear on the unit review or the quiz. Clarify that you are unlikely to ask a question with a one-word answer such as how many soldiers were killed in the battle because that question doesn’t represent deep understanding of the new learning. A more meaningful question would be: What caused the battle between the two armies?

Questioning is not owned by teachers. We need to flip-flop the ownership of questioning from teachers to students. We want students to always be thinking critically and evaluating the content and situations around them. Seeking to answer meaningful questions helps students make sense of the world.

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